I need you.
The psychoanalyst Robert Money-Kyrle neatly defined the basic facts of life, saying that we are all dependent on other people for survival, we are not the centre of the entire universe and can be excluded from things, and we all die. Don’t panic, we’re not doing death this week rather the issue of dependency and our national interest in what has become known as “social capital”. For the non-capitalists amongst you that means relationships-with-other-people.
I’m not sure that we need reminding of the fact that we are important to each other, particularly during periods of crisis, but there is something strangely difficult about admitting that life is impossible without other people and acting accordingly. Perhaps it is cultural (how gauche to admit I need you) and cuts against our prized independence and individualism (what? I’m nothing without you?). It’s also dangerous because it upsets the conservative order of things where friends and family are your concern and everyone else is not. It’s less of a headache to see your interests as connected only to people that you love than to worry about things like public services or maintaining real social networks.
Sadly romantic ideas about love conquering all are tested to the extreme during an economic crisis. Any relationship where one person is unemployed faces challenges. Feelings get stirred up- often rather unattractive ones like irritation, anger and loss of sexual desire. These emotions may be triggered because someone reliable has become unreliable, upsetting the status quo and reversing roles within relationships in which providers stop providing and lovers become carers. People with pre-existing mental health problems find their problems returning and couples are faced with agonising choices about how to care for each other and still keep all the wheels moving. Relationships and families break down not just because of hard financial realities but facing the psychic realities that people we love can disappoint us.
There is something deeply anti-relationship about many people’s reactions to threat, often a very real sense of ‘fight or flight’. Adrenaline shoots through our veins and fists start forming. At this point if your sense of being rooted in your workplace or your relationships is weak, the obvious reaction is to run. This retreat into flight is fundamentally rejecting, leaving behind people, organisations and careers that have often been built up over entire lifetimes. The majority of these flights though are internal, resulting in a retreat from contact with others. We are more than capable of resentfully wheeling out the statement “I stayed didn’t I?” but actually living in a mental bunker that cuts us off from others and, therefore, reality. This predictable, assured and relatively secure psychic reality is a delusion because it says that only I can sort out my own problems. Because it’s a delusion, it comes at the expense of living in the real world where we are dependent on the care of other people and, if you want to get hippy about it, a benevolent universe.
If you are struggling to survive work this week and you feel like packing your psychic bags, don’t. Instead, take the risk and tell someone that you need their help. Life only exists outside of the bunker.
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